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Sat 29 Oct 2011 09:36 AM

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UK dispute cost me $1.6bn, says Saudi's Al Jaber

Saudi billionaire tells London court about impact of asset freeze by Standard Bank

UK dispute cost me $1.6bn, says Saudi's Al Jaber
Sheikh Mohamed bin Issa Al Jaber
UK dispute cost me $1.6bn, says Saudi's Al Jaber
London High Court

Sheikh Mohamed bin Issa Al Jaber, Saudi Arabia’s third richest man, told a London court Standard Bank’s effort to freeze his assets throughout the world cost him more than one billion pounds ($1.6bn) and caused his UK hotels to be seized.

Al Jaber’s assets were frozen last year because of a dispute with Standard Bank’s UK unit over loans to companies in his MBI International & Partners group that the bank said weren’t repaid.

At a London court hearing where he was seeking to remove the freezing order, Al Jaber said it had caused lenders to put parts of his JJW Hotels & Resorts into administration.

On October 26, Lloyds TSB Bank applied to put the Scotsman Group, which runs hotels in Edinburgh and Paris, into administration, the Saudi billionaire said. Boutique hotel operator Eton Group went into administration last year.

The unit of Johannesburg-based Standard Bank Group is separately suing Al Jaber in London to recoup the loans, worth a total of $150m, to JJW Hotels & Resorts and Ajwa for Food Industries Co.

Al Jaber is the chairman, chief executive officer and founder of MBI, which has interests in hotels, real estate, oil and gas, and agribusiness, according to his website.

“I am proud about my business,” Al Jaber told Standard Bank’s lawyer Ian Mill. “I would not let things go like this if I was not in the position your bank put me in. Now, my losses exceed one billion pounds.”

Al Jaber, Saudi Arabia’s third-richest man according to Arabian Business, has a counter-claim against the bank because it allowed unauthorised foreign-exchange trades from a personal account, his lawyers said at a pre-trial hearing last week.

While Al Jaber’s MBI International group has assets of $9bn according to his website, the businessman has five million pounds of debt to suppliers and has struggled to cover personal expenses, according to his attorney Catharine Otton-Goulder.

At Friday’s hearing, Al Jaber said the freezing order had resulted in the seized hotels being sold at a discount.

“I am facing every day losing something, and I have no control,” he said.

A spokesman for Sheikh Mohamed said after the hearing: “Sheikh Mohamed is determined to fight these claims from Standard Bank, and to advance a significant counter claim in excess of $1bn."

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